Food Security Pilot Projects.

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By Sian Mullen, Food Security Programme Coordinator

Alongside the VCSE sector and Local Authority partners, GMPA has started trialling a new approach to supporting
people experiencing food poverty in Tameside and Oldham. The approach centres around three fundamental points:

    1. Whilst emergency food handouts are currently necessary, they do not prevent or reduce food poverty.
    2. The only real way to reduce food poverty is to ensure people have access to a decent and reliable income.
    3. Identifying what kind of advice or support people need to maximise their income or access cash support, and who provides that advice, can be difficult.

Our response has been to develop and begin embedding a referral tool that enables anyone who refers people to a food bank to first identify income maximisation advice for people. We are also encouraging these agencies to make an active referral to an organisation who can support with this as opposed to signposting e.g. giving someone a phone number to call or a website to visit. The aim is to help tackle the underlying causes of food insecurity, and reduce demand for food banks and clubs.

The tool itself, based on a model developed in Scotland by A Menu for Change begins by identifying underlying issues that people presenting in food insecurity may be experiencing, such as job loss, benefit delays or sanctions, or debt.

The tool then directs referrers to some options that could help with these issues. For example, support to challenge a benefit sanction, budgeting advice, advice to reduce energy costs, or access to discretionary housing payments or the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme. If someone has no recourse to public funds, they may be eligible to get a cash grant to support themselves.

Finally the tool then directs referrers to a local organisation who can support the person with this process. For example, in Tameside, the Welfare Rights Team, Citizens Advice, and the GM Law Centre could all support someone to challenge a benefit decision. Or Infinity Initiatives could enable someone with no recourse to public funds to access a cash grant from the Migrant Destitution Fund.

As well as direct income maximisation support the tool also identifies areas of support that may help someone manages their finances better, for example it guides people to support for addictions, mental health issues, and homelessness.

We know that there are great organisations already working to refer service users on to the best support they can find, and this tool and process aims to embed this on a wider scale. People experiencing food insecurity often turn to places like schools, GPs, places of worship, and small community groups, so we need to ensure that these places, as well as larger VCSE sector organisations or Local Authorities recognise food insecurity as a symptom of poverty and treat it at its root cause. Equally, the tool allows those who may already be doing this kind of work, to more easily identify where to refer someone to, streamlining the process and maximising the chances of people getting the advice and support that they need.

Link to the online tool and Link to Advice Tameside website

Tameside Referral Tool for GM Poverty Action

Every year hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed across the UK, so we want to ensure people are accessing what they can. Other people may just need some help reducing energy costs or budgeting, or an interaction they have with a referrer might be the point when they’re finally able to ask for help with other issues such as mental health, or an addiction. Or there may be schemes that people have been unaware of such as a local welfare assistance scheme. During the consultation process that we carried out to develop the tool in Tameside, we already identified support that other organisations were unaware of.

We are continuing to work to ensure the tool is accessible and helpful for diverse ethnic communities. This includes developing translation documents to go alongside the tool in key languages used across the boroughs, and looking at how we can identify organisations which have language support available for people in need of advice.

Sian Mullen Food Poverty Programme Coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Sian Mullen

The Oldham tool is still being developed but you can download or use an online version of the tool for Tameside here. If you’re an organisation in Tameside who refers people to food banks we really encourage you to use this tool with people before sending them on to the food bank. If you are using the tool we’re really keen to collect any feedback you may have on it so we can adapt it as needed. You can share your feedback with us, or report how you’ve been using it, using the online forms available here.

When we have feedback from the pilot projects, we hope to encourage the development and rollout of similar tools in other boroughs of Greater Manchester – please look out for more information on this later in the year.

The Food Security Programme is a Greater Manchester Poverty Action programme

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Real Living Wage City Region

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Greater Manchester Real Living Wage Campaign Update

By John Hacking, Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Co-ordinator.

May 12th was a very significant date for the campaign to make Greater Manchester a Real Living Wage City Region as it saw the first meeting of the City Region Living Wage Action Group chaired by the newly elected Mayor of GM, Andy Burnham.

Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign (GMLWC) has been working towards the goal of making GM a Real Living Wage City Region for a number of years and the announcement in November 2020 by the  Mayor that it was his intention to make this vision a reality, was a massive step forward for our campaign to see a real improvement in the lives of thousands of low paid workers in our area.

Since the announcement I have (as reported in previous newsletters) been working with partners and stakeholders across GM to create the Living Wage Action Plan which was unveiled on May 12th. The Living Wage Action Plan Group will now work to outline a clear path towards the goal of all employers in the city-region paying the living wage and offering living hours by 2030, as recommended by the Independent Inequalities Commission in its report published earlier this year.

I have been, and will continue, to work on the Plan to ensure that there are ambitious targets and that there is the widest and most diverse possible involvement from all sectors and communities across GM.

The Action Plan Group will be chaired by Lou Cordwell, Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership and is made up of businesses, unions, local authorities, civil society, faith groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations.  The Plan will focus on key sectors of the GM economy: ‘anchor institutions’, including large public sector organisations; local authorities; health and social care; hospitality and leisure; large employers; small and medium enterprises; and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

GMLWC along with GM Citizens will lead on the campaigns sub-group  focussing on using our local networks of Real Living Wage activists and advocates to target employers across GM working with local and national campaigns.

As part of the work to involve a wide and diverse group of people and organisations in the Campaign Subgroup, we will be holding a meeting of the GMLWC group in June. If you are on the database you will receive more information in the next couple of weeks. If you aren’t but want to be then please send your name, organisation (if applicable) and email address to me.

John Hacking GM Living Wage coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator John Hacking

In addition to this, we continue to work with partners across GM on a range of local campaigns. One of the activities we promote, and support, is to encourage more local authorities to become Real Living Wage Employers. As reported previously Bury Council recently made a commitment to become a Real Living Wage Employer. In the latest in our series of podcasts we spoke to Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, Leader of Bury Council about a range of issues related to the fight against poverty and in particular the plans to make Bury Council the 4th local authority in GM to become a Living Wage Employer. You can listen the podcast on our website here

John Hacking, Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Co-ordinator
Twitter: @GMlivingwage     Facebook:

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign is a Greater Manchester Poverty Action programme.


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New End Child Poverty statistics

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New local child poverty figures show worrying trends

By Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

Last week the End Child Poverty Coalition released new analysis showing child poverty rates across the UK by local authority area over the six years leading up to the pandemic. Even before the economy was hit by the pandemic, child poverty was becoming more entrenched in areas with already high levels of poverty and deprivation.

Of particular concern is the increase in child poverty in the North East, with the largest increases in child poverty between 2015/16 and 2019/20 happening in Newcastle upon Tyne (up 12.8%), Gateshead (up 11.2%), Redcar and Cleveland (up 10.6%) and County Durham (up 10.5%).

Whilst the increases in Greater Manchester haven’t been as sharp as in parts of the North East, there have been significant increases in Manchester (up 6.4%), Oldham (up 5.1%) and Bolton (4.1%). Across Greater Manchester as a whole, only one of our ten boroughs (Trafford) saw child poverty fall over this period – as shown in the table
below:End Child Poverty 2021 table

Nationally, the highest rates of child poverty remain concentrated in large conurbations like London and Birmingham.

In response to these concerning figures, the End Child Poverty Coalition is calling on the UK Government to recognise the scale of the problem and its impact on children’s lives and to create a credible plan to end child poverty which must include a commitment to increase child benefits. Given the extent to which families are already struggling, the planned £20 per week cut to Universal Credit in October 2021 should be revoked. The support should also be extended to those still receiving financial assistance from the old benefit system, referred to as ‘legacy benefits’, before they are switched to Universal Credit.

End Child Poverty infographic 2021

To read the full report please visit the End Child Poverty Coalition website.

GMPA is a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition steering group.


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Time for a step change in how we address socio-economic disadvantage

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by Graham Whitham

It was good to see the launch of the Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission report last month. The Commission was launched in October 2020 with a six-month mission to examine inequalities across the city region, consider how they should be tackled and outline some specific and hard-hitting recommendations. The Commission viewed inequalities within a framework that considers how interacting and intersecting inequalities create barriers that stop people from living the good lives that they want.

COVID-19 has exposed the extent of these inequalities in Greater Manchester. To address this, the Commission’s report calls on everyone in the city-region to work towards an agreed set of wellbeing and equality targets that aim to leave no-one behind. Alongside this are a series of recommendations under the themes of People Power, Good Jobs and Decent Pay, Building Wealth and Services for a Good Life. You can read more about the recommendations here.

GMPA supported the work of the Commission by bringing together a ‘Poverty Reference Group’. The group was made up of people with lived experience of poverty who have been involved in engagement and co-production projects across Greater Manchester (including poverty truth commissions, the Elephants Project, Creative Inclusion, the BME Network, GM Coalition of Disabled People, Migrant Help, Support & Action Women’s Network, and Legislative Theatre). The aim of the group was to inform and reflect on the work of the commission, complementing other engagement work (including engaging with the Equalities Panels). The meetings generated a range of innovative recommendations that were grounded in real world experience of poverty, including how to:

•  Reduce barriers to employment, and tackle stigma and bias in recruitment and in the workplace;
•  Improve job quality, and increase access to education and training;
•  Listen meaningfully to communities;
•  Give communities the power to tackle for themselves the problems that affect them.

A number of key areas that GMPA has been working on are included in the report, including a call for the Combined Authority to adopt the socio-economic duty and, building on the Poverty Reference Group, the establishment of a new Panel for people with lived experience of poverty to inform and shape policy.

GMPA wants to see a city-region where we put tackling socio-economic disadvantage at the heart of what we do. We have more councils (working with partners) with poverty strategies in place and examples of good practice and innovation in tackling poverty across Greater Manchester. The Real Living Wage is become more embedded, with plans to create a Living Wage City Region. GMPA is working hard to create a stronger focus on preventing and reducing poverty.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

We need to go further and embed a focus on poverty and socio-economic disadvantage in everything we do. It is helpful therefore, that the Commission has articulated a clear framework for understanding the intersection between socio-economic disadvantage and poverty and other inequalities.

Next week Greater Manchester goes to the polls for the Mayoral Election. It is important that together with whoever wins, we implement the recommendations of the Commission.


i3oz9sTime for a step change in how we address socio-economic disadvantage
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Tameside Poverty Truth Commission

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Tameside Poverty Truth Commission: Recruiting for Commissioners

We are currently recruiting 12 to 15 key civic and business leaders, and 12 to 15 people with lived experience of poverty from across Tameside.

Do you live in Tameside and have lived experience of poverty or know anyone who does?

Would you be interested in sharing your story of the struggles you have faced with people in positions of influence within Tameside so that together we can come up with ideas that will help others living in poverty?

The Poverty Truth Commission is a unique project where relationships are prioritised. A group of people who would not normally meet are brought together because of their lived experience and expertise and are able to use their voice to influence and shape a better Tameside.

We are looking to invite 12-15 people of all ages and backgrounds to join this commission. Initially we will meet weekly (using zoom until we can meet face to face) to get to know each other. There will then be a launch event where we will invite key decision makers to hear the impact of poverty in Tameside. After that, we will meet monthly with a group of 12-15 civic/business leaders and together we will spend time getting to know each other and deeply listening to the struggles that people face. We will not jump to quick solutions but instead think about better solutions that will help Tameside become a place where everyone can thrive.

If you are interested in joining this commission we would love to hear from you. Do get in touch with Beatrice Smith on 07423 014430. Alternatively, you can email Beatrice.

More information about the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission


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Latest poverty stats

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Latest official poverty stats illustrate scale of inequality in the UK pre-pandemic

By Graham Whitham

At the end of March, the Government released the latest official statistics detailing levels of poverty in the UK. This data covers 2019/20, therefore providing us with a snapshot of poverty levels right up to the eve of the pandemic.

The data shows that 14.5m people were living below the poverty line in the UK in 2019/20. Of concern is the rise
in child and pensioner poverty, with the percentage of children and pensioners living in poverty now back at
pre-financial crisis levels (as illustrated in figure 1).Figure 1 latest official poverty stats April 2021 for GM Poverty Action

Looking at child poverty data specifically, we are starting to see the impact of the policy to restrict benefits to the first two children in a family that was introduced in 2017. As shown in figure 2, whilst children in families with three or more children have always been at greater risk of poverty, the gap had narrowed significantly in the years up to 2012/13. In the year from 2018/19nto 2019/20 the poverty rate for families containing 3 or more children shot up from 42% to 47%, whilst it remained stable for families with one or two children.Figure 2 latest official poverty stats April 2021 for GM Poverty Action

The data highlights a number of other disparities between different groups of the population. In 2019/20:

• Lone parent families were nearly twice as likely to be in poverty than couple families.

• 51% of all children in poverty were in families with a youngest child aged under five.

• Poverty rates were highest for people in households where the head of the household is from the Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnic groups and lowest for those from White ethnic groups.

• 46% of social renters and 33% of private renters were in poverty, compared to 12% of owner occupiers.

• The proportion of people in poverty was 35% for families where someone is disabled, compared to 28% for people living in families where no one is disabled.

• The proportion of children in poverty living in households where at least one person was in work was 75%.

What can be done?

These inequalities between different groups of the population aren’t inevitable. An increase in Child Benefit of
just £10 per week would cut child poverty by 450,000. Scrapping the two-child limit would stem increases in child poverty. Addressing low pay would drive down in-work poverty. Reforming Universal Credit so it provides a proper safety net would stop people being plunged into hardship when they lose their job or have their hours cut.
Increasing the availability of social housing and improving the rights of tenants in the private rented sector would address the link between poverty and housing tenure. Further improving the availability of childcare support would help address poverty among lone parents families and families with young children. This data should be driving the national responses to poverty and, in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is more important than ever that we have a coherent national play for tackling the issue.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

NB: The data presented in this article is for poverty measured as those household living below 60% of median income after housing costs have been taken into account. This is the main measure of poverty used by campaigners. There is a wealth of additional data, using both the main measure and other measures of poverty detailed in the Households Below Average Income report.






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Impact Report 2017 – 2020

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 By Graham Whitham

Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA) was incorporated in May 2016. The organisation was established to combat growing levels of poverty across the city region through policy and systems change. Initially GMPA’s work was delivered through a voluntary network. Since 2017, we have grown the organisation’s staff team and begun to develop and deliver several outputs that have enabled us to shape the way Greater Manchester responds to poverty.

We’re really pleased to be publishing an Impact Report covering the three years from 2017 up to the end of 2020. It details GMPA’s achievements during that period as we work towards our vision of a Greater Manchester free from poverty where all residents can realise their potential and access the benefits of living in a diverse and vibrant city region.

Our achievements to date include growing the number of Real Living Wage accredited employers, supporting local authorities in establishing anti-poverty strategies and initiatives, building a network of nearly 1400 stakeholders committed to addressing poverty and bringing together organisations from across the public, private and VCSE sectors to take collective action on food insecurity.

We have been able to evidence the value of our work through stakeholder feedback via annual surveys in 2019 and 2020, the results from the latter being detailed in this report. Feedback from the 2020 survey found that among GMPA’s network:

• 97% believe that GMPA’s policy and research reports are either very useful or useful for their work.

• 96% believe that the work of GMPA to help raise awareness of the effects of poverty and its causes is very
important or important.

• 92% strongly agree or agree that GMPA is a vital source of information about how poverty can be tackled in
Greater Manchester.

• 84% say that the work of GMPA has had a strong positive impact or positive impact on the extent to which their
own work focuses on addressing the causes of poverty.

We are really proud of the contribution we’ve made to getting poverty higher up the agenda in Greater Manchester. This work wouldn’t have been possible without support from members of our network and funders. Please take some time to look through the report. We look forward to having an even greater impact over the coming years.


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Strengthening local welfare provision

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Next steps

By Graham Whitham

In December, GMPA launched our Strengthening the role of local welfare assistance report. The report identifies good practice and recommendations from across the country and considers how these can be applied to local welfare assistance schemes here in Greater Manchester.

Local welfare assistance schemes are an important means through which local authorities can respond to the needs of residents facing a financial crisis. Relatively small interventions delivered through these schemes can help meet a person’s immediate needs and prevent them from falling deeper into hardship. However, national research has found that there’s often a lack of awareness of schemes, that they are poorly advertised and difficult to access.

In Greater Manchester, where all local councils have schemes in place, there is some existing good practice and a real opportunity to strengthen support in each of our boroughs. Taking the recommendations detailed in the report, GMPA has developed a checklist for local authorities and their partners to use to assess their schemes and understand what further improvements could be made. Importantly, at a time when local authority finances are coming under even greater pressure, most of the recommendations come at no extra cost.

We are pleased with the engagement we’ve had on the report to date. This month we held events for elected members, council officers and other stakeholders from across GM, and we’ll continue to work with councils and their partners over the course of this year.

Of particular relevance as we (hopefully) begin to recover from the pandemic, is the focus in the report on taking a ‘cash first’ approach to supporting people. This means that the default way in which someone facing hardship is supported is through a monetary payment rather than in-kind support such as a fuel voucher or food parcel.

Local welfare assistance schemes represent an obvious opportunity for local authorities to adopt this approach as a key role of schemes is to support residents with essential living costs for those in financial crisis, such as buying food or heating their home. Whilst most of the schemes in Greater Manchester offer this support, it is usually in the form of vouchers.

There has been a range of research highlighting the benefits of cash payments over any other form of support for those in financial crisis due to its:

a) Flexibility, choice, speed and convenience – vouchers have to be used with certain companies or certain locations or for certain products; cash can be used anywhere and if issued electronically, is available immediately. Vouchers may mean someone having to travel a distance to buy food, costing them money and time, when they could have used their local shop if they had access to cash, benefiting the local economy. There is a much greater risk that vouchers won’t be used compared to money.

b) Preservation of dignity – having to use vouchers can be stigmatising and may reduce access to the support that residents desperately need.

c) Administrative efficiency (when processed electronically) – once an electronic system is set up to pay cash it can be processed quickly and remotely, without the need for face-to-face visits. This approach removes the need to make arrangements with third parties (e.g. voucher providers) further reducing administrative pressures.

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, CEO GMPA

Adoption of a ‘cash first’ approach by local welfare assistance schemes across Greater Manchester would help contribute to addressing the atomisation of poverty that we’ve seen over the last ten years. You can read more about the importance of this approach in our ‘Cash first’ briefing and in the Strengthening the role of local welfare assistance report.



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Strengthening local welfare provision

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Events in March will explore strengthening local welfare provision

Local welfare assistance schemes can play a central role in the local safety net, meeting people’s immediate needs and averting deepening hardship and deprivation.

Lack of government guidance and support on how schemes should operate means that they have evolved differently in each locality and not everywhere in England has a scheme in place. All ten of our Greater Manchester boroughs have worked hard to retain local provision and there are some examples of good practice locally. However, we also know that more needs to be done to scale up that good practice across the city region, raise awareness of schemes and ensure local support best meets the needs of low-income residents.

Research by GMPA has found that the type of support, how support is accessed, knowledge of schemes and the level of funding that goes into them varies considerably from one borough to the next.

As we enter a period that will lay bare the economic damage of COVID-19, Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s latest report (published in December) – Strengthening the role of local welfare assistance – provides a series of recommendations to improve schemes.

The recommendations include taking a ‘cash first’ approach to supporting people, simplifying the application process, taking a case worker approach to supporting residents that helps prevent future financial hardship and ensuring schemes can be accessed by different population subgroups.

LWAS report infographic for GM Poverty Action

Most of the recommendations in the report come at no-cost. Where there are cost implications, upfront investments are suggested that will deliver savings in the long run by improving outcomes for residents and reducing pressure on other services.

Local authority delivered local welfare schemes need to be joined up with other help in each locality, enabling councils, housing providers and VCSE sector organisations to coordinate support.

Alongside the report, GMPA has produced tools for local authorities and their partners to use to enhance schemes and measure their effectiveness.

GMPA will be holding an event on Tuesday March 23rd, from 10am using Zoom to explore the findings and recommendations from the report.  This event is aimed at people working for local authorities, housing providers, VCSE sector organisations and other stakeholders. To book your place click here.

At the event you’ll hear from report author Simon Watts and Graham Whitham, GMPA Chief Executive. There will be opportunity for questions and presentations will take attendees through the support tools developed alongside the report.


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Making Greater Manchester a Real Living Wage City Region

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GM Living WageAt the launch event for Living Wage Week 2020 on November 9th, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, called on every sector partner and stakeholders to work towards making Greater Manchester the first Real Living Wage City Region in the UK. He urged businesses, local government, the public sector, trades unions and the voluntary, faith and community sectors to work together to make a step change in the movement to create a more just and equal society and an economy that works for all.

The Mayor said: “This announcement clearly demonstrates Greater Manchester’s commitment to the Real Living Wage and good employment in the city-region – ensuring that our citizens earn enough to make ends meet, creating an inclusive economy and helping us to build back better.” and he added that he planned to convene an Action Group in GM to oversee proposals to increase the number of accredited Living Wage Employers across all sectors in all ten city-region’s boroughs.

The GM Living Wage Campaign (GMLWC) welcomed this announcement and we have committed ourselves to work with the Mayor and others to achieve this ambition. The goal of Greater Manchester being a Living Wage city region has been a key aim of the GMLWC since it’s inception.

Since the announcement in November the GMLWC Campaign Co-ordinator John Hacking has been working with the GM Combined Authority, The Living Wage Foundation and GM Citizens UK to map out the steps and actions needed to achieve Living Wage City Region status. This process will ultimately see GM accredited as a Living Wage city region by the Living Wage Foundation.

To achieve this accredited status, a GM Real Living Wage Action Plan will be formulated which will include work by a series of sub-groups on the various aspects of the Action Plan to agree the details of the action plan including how partners and stakeholder can get involved, what the timescales are, what the challenges are likely to be and how they might be overcome.

As the Mayor acknowledged “I recognise that individual organisations will need to engage with this ambition at their own pace, and that this may prove especially challenging for some in the current environment.”

There are likely to be sub-groups covering areas such as local authorities, private businesses of all sizes, housing, the VCSE sector, campaigns, and others. There will be a focus on health and social care as a key sector.

GMLWC Co-ordinator John Hacking is keen to ensure that the regions’ campaign supporters and activists can be involved in the drive to achieve Living Wage city region status as they have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and information to contribute to this process.

This a good time for the GMLWC to discuss how we can make the best and most effective contribution. To this end there will be a meeting on Tuesday February 23rd, 2021 at 12.30pm.

The meeting is open to all who are interested in campaigning for the Real Living Wage in GM and will focus on the work to be done to achieve Living Wage City Region Accreditation. There will be an opportunity to hear the latest update on the Living Wage City Region Action Plan and how to get involved. We want to hear your ideas and suggestions that can help us to make this ambition a reality and improve the lives of tens of thousands of low paid workers and their families. There is much for us to build on but a real prize for us to gain. It would be great to see as many people as possible getting involved.

If you want to attend the meeting please book at Eventbrite.

In addition, if you have ideas, questions or comments ahead of the meeting wewould be delighted to hear from you.

John Hacking GM Living Wage coordinator for GM Poverty Action

Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Coordinator John Hacking

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign Co-ordinator John Hacking
Twitter: @GMlivingwage

The Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign is a Greater Manchester Poverty Action programme.


i3oz9sMaking Greater Manchester a Real Living Wage City Region
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